The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Search On for East Africa Ivory Baron

Police in Nairobi were last evening hunting for a Nairobi businessman believed to be the ivory trade kingpin in East Africa. This follows a swoop in Nairobi's South C and Eastleigh estates where police recovered 28 elephant tusks.

The businessman is said to have gone into hiding after police raided one of his houses in South C on Wednesday night. Detectives from the Special Crime Prevention Unit, who had been tipped off about the ivory, laid a trap in South C where they intercepted a van and recovered four tusks.

Two men were also arrested. Another team from the same unit arrested two men in Makindu and recovered another 12 tusks and also arrested two men. Police recovered the Toyota saloon car that the arrested men were ferrying the tusks in.

Yesterday, investigators trailed a third car to Eastleigh where they recovered another 12 tusks. No one was arrested in connection with the Eastleigh cache.

The head of the unit, Said Kiprotich, said police suspect the businessman was the linkman between poachers and exporters. Other police sources who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity said the wealthy businessman may have contracted different criminal groups for game trophies, which he sneaked out of the country through the Kenya-Tanzania border.

The sources said the businessman worked with a group of 10 men that police are yet to arrest. The arrests come a day after two Kenyans were nabbed in Tanzania with ivory worth Sh2 million.

Tanzania police said the two were among four suspects arrested as they prepared to transport the ivory to Kenya in a coffin. Reuters reported Dar es Salaam police regional commander Suleiman Kova as saying the cache of tusks was the biggest seizure in the recent past.

"The tusks were really big, which means that they were carefully picked for certain customers," Suleiman Kova told the new agency.

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